It seemed to happen in an instant, but it also felt as though a thousand years had gone by.
Cloudhawk slowly opened his eyes. He realized that he was lying out in the open, and he frantically sat up while scanning right and left. The area was littered with piles of debris and ruined buildings. They were in the ruins, and it was already day.
Had it all been a dream? The injury on his chest was gone. The injury on his shoulder was gone. The place where the sweeper had kicked him and caused internal bleeding was completely pain-free.
Even the wounds he had taken from the beating the scar-faced man had given him had completely disappeared. It couldn’t have ALL been a dream, right?
Cloudhawk could sense that his hands were clenched around something. When he lowered his gaze to take a look, his eyes narrowed. Wasn’t this the jewel which he had taken from the sweeper camp?
The jewel wasn’t shining at all; in fact, it no longer emanated the slightest bit of light. However, its formerly smooth surface was now covered with many slender ‘veins’ of blood. It was as though his blood had been drained into it, with some left being on its surface.
The jewel looked completely ordinary and unremarkable. Anyone who saw it would think it to be nothing more than an ordinary black rock. Aside from the many dark-red lines matting its surface, there really was nothing particularly special about it at all.
“Woke up?” The fat man walked over towards Cloudhawk. Cloudhawk hurriedly hid away the black stone, then looked somewhat nervously at the fat man. This man always had a merry look on his face, but he was actually an incredibly sinister person. The fat man, however, didn’t seem to mind the look on his face. He actually tossed Cloudhawk a piece of bread. “Eat something first.”
Cloudhawk hesitated for a few moments, but he was so hungry that he accepted the bread and began to gnaw at it. The piece of bread was as tough as wood, but to Cloudhawk it was an absolute delicacy.
The mercenaries were busy dragging the various mutant corpses into rainproof bags. As for the fat man, he just lit a cigarette as he sat down. “Y’know, at first I was just lying to ya. But I just changed my mind. I’ll take you to our outpost.”
Why did the fat man suddenly change his mind and become so nice? Cloudhawk had personally witnessed him send dozens of scavengers to their deaths, treating them as if they were just garbage!
“You might not know this, but you are now a metahuman.” The fat man didn’t wait for Cloudhawk to answer the obvious question. “And don’t ask me what metas are. Fucked if I know. All I know is that we are a new breed of humans whose bodies have been improved in certain ways and are much more powerful than ordinary people. I’m a meta, Mad Dog’s a meta, and every other member of our mercenary company is a meta. Now, it seems you are a meta as well.”
A surge of excitement began to enter Cloudhawk’s heart. Did this mean he would become as powerful as this chubby white man and the muscular black man in the future?
The fat man took a puff on his cigarettes, then continued, “Buuuut… don’t have too many expectations. There are many different types of metas. There are strength metas, agility metas, control metas, perception metas, intelligence metas… and as for you, you are nothing more than a healing meta.”
Cloudhawk didn’t understand. “A healing meta?”
“Mad Dog’s a strength meta, which is why he can snap bones as easily as snappin’ twigs. Strength metas are suited for becoming close-combat warriors. I’m a control meta; I have absolutely perfect control over every single part of my body, allowing me to aim and move with absolute precision. That’s why I can shoot your balls off from a hundred paces without even looking. I can control any tool or weapon with perfect precision.”
“Then what about me?” Cloudhawk was rather impatient.
“You?” The fat man snickered. “All you do is heal a bit faster, but what the fuck good is that? If a bullet hits you in the head, you are as dead as anyone else. That’s why healing metas are the most useless of all metas. I mean, I can’t exactly use you to go block a mutabeasts attack for me, right?”
The most useless type of metahuman? Cloudhawk couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointment.
“Heh!” The fat man gave him a hard pat. “Cheer up. Less than one person in a hundred is a meta. You are already pretty lucky! Healing metas might not be useful, but at least you’ll recover your energy much faster than ordinary people. That means you’ll be useful as a laborer. Don’t worry! Just follow me.”
A thunderous booming sound suddenly rang out from the direction of the wastelands. This sound started off small but quickly grew much louder, almost as though it was travelling at such incredible speeds through the wastelands that it was generating sonic booms.
“Fuck! Finally!” The fat man flicked away his cigarette and rose to his feet, his hands resting against the pistols around his waist. He barked towards the others, “Everyone, look lively!”
The resting mercenaries all jumped to their feet, and Mad Dog drew out his two snowy blades as well.
Cloudhawk didn’t understand why the mercenaries were acting this way, but the thunderous booms coming from the wastelands were incredibly close by now. When he turned to squint towards their direction, his eyes suddenly widened. He saw something so completely inconceivable that his eyes nearly popped out of their sockets.
A small black dot had appeared in the night skies. It seemed to have come from the distant heavens, and as it slowly cruised through the heavens it grew larger and larger.
It was actually a large airship that was at least a hundred meters long!
There were a couple of obvious patches in the airship’s enormous gas sac, and spots of rust could be seen throughout its metallic frame. Evidence of makeshift repairs could be seen everywhere, and some parts of it were actually bulging outwards, as though they were about to break apart at any moment. Overall, however, this was an incredibly complete airship.
Its exterior walls and copper tubing were all neatly arrayed, and the engines at the back were constantly emitting plenty of hot steam as four sets of propellers furiously rotated about, ensuring that the ship was able to advance at an even keel. On each side of the airship there were black cannons protruding from various openings, bringing a sense of awe and menace.
In the eyes of Cloudhawk, this enormous thing was something out of the very legends.
The airship slowly began to descend, finally coming to a halt in front of the mercenaries’ campfire. As it did, a powerful wind blew past, sending rocks tumbling across the ground and half-extinguishing the campire. The wind was so strong that Cloudhawk could barely open his eyes.
Clank! The rusty door to the airship swung open, and a black figure emerged from the wind and the sand.
This man was tall and very muscular. He was dressed in a set of black leather clothes that completely covered his entire body, exposing nothing to the elements. He wore a black breathing mask that was shaped like a stork’s beak, and the mask was connected to quite a few wires and tubes. The faint sound of heavy breathing could be heard coming from that mask, and white steam could be seen coming from the exhaust tubes. In truth, he looked like a monstrous humanoid with the face of a long-billed bird.
A look of extreme wariness was on Mad Dog’s face.
The fat man looked the way he usually did, but his hands never strayed away from his two pistols as he sauntered towards the black-garbed man. “We’ve already found the targets you wanted. Where’s the stuff we want?”
The black-garbed man didn’t even glance at the fat man. He just gestured with a hand, causing several men to emerge from the armored airship. These men were dressed in white hazmat suits, and they came rushing out with toolboxes at the ready as they moved towards the corpses on the ground. They pulled open the rainproof body bags, then glanced through the bodies. One of the white-garbed men nodded. “They look fine!”
The black-garbed man tossed a box to the fat man’s feet.
One of the rookie mercenaries went to pick up the box, then opened it up. There were multiple firearms neatly arrayed inside the box, as well as a large amount of gunpowder and several needles of various colors.
The fat man let out a sigh of relief. “Happy doin’ business!”
“Wait a moment!” For the first time, the black-garbed man spoke. His gravelly voice sounded like that of a tightly controlled wild beast’s, and when it came out from that breathing mask it sounded incredibly strange. “Did any of you find anything unusual? For example, a strange rock.”
Cloudhawk’s heart nearly came to a stop!
The fat man frowned. “This place is filled with rocks. Didn’t see any special ones.”
“Are you certain?”
The black-garbed man slowly raised his head.
Even though his face was completely covered by that strange mask, all of the mercenaries could still sense an incredibly dangerous and sharp gaze sweep through them, causing all of them to take a few nervous steps back.
Everyone instantly felt as though they had been pierced through by that gaze. As for the fat man, he was rather irritated. “The hell is this all about?”
“Nothing.” The black-garbed man withdrew his gaze, then said slowly, “That stone is completely useless to you. If you are able to find it in the future, I’ll pay you a hundred times the commission you earned today!”
The mercenaries all sucked in deep breaths. What? A hundred times the commission? The commission for this mission was already equivalent to an entire year’s worth of commissions. To multiply that figure a hundredfold… fuck, what the hell type of rock was this?!
By now, the corpses of the sweepers had been loaded into the airship.
The four propellers once more began to rotate, kicking up another storm of wind and sand as the enormous airship began to slowly rise into the air. The copper tubes once more began to generate those booming sounds that sounded like the rattling coughs of someone suffering from lung disease before they finally began to spurt out large streams of air. The airship slowly began to speed up, then finally disappeared off into the horizon.
The fat man lifted up the chest, a completely satisfied look on his face. He walked next to the wide-eyed and slack-jawed Cloudhawk, then gave him a hard slap on the shoulders. “Crazy, right? That thing is a helluva high-class toy!”
Cloudhawk tightly clenched the rock in his hand, trying to do his best to act normally. His voice, however, couldn’t help but quaver a bit. “W-who were they?”
“A bunch of mysterious bastards. Who knows? Some of the real rulers of the wastelands, that’s for sure!” The fat man clearly didn’t know much about them either. “Doesn’t really matter. Small fry like you will probably never have a chance to meet people like them. Hell, best if you don’t. Those guys really do kill people without even batting an eyelid. To them, we’re nothing more than ants!”
Were they truly so strong that even these powerful mercenaries looked up to them in awe?
Cloudhawk had no idea what sort of amazing treasure he had stumbled upon. The mysterious rock just lay there calmly within his hand, and when it pressed against his flesh he felt as though the rock was part of his body.
The fat man called out in a loud voice, “Form up, form up! We’re going back!”
The mercenaries all whooped in celebration as they boarded their patchwork vehicle. The crude, multi-wheeled behemoth let out a few angry rumbles, then began to charge through the uneven wastelands.